Ask A Pro
We get a lot of questions about the benefits of lighting when it comes to residential real estate as well as rental properties. So we asked some of the frequently asked questions we get to Jonathan Carvallo, a real estate agent, and Airbnb host, to get his thoughts.
How long have you been a licensed realtor? Airbnb host?
I’ve been a licensed realtor for five (5) years and an Airbnb host for (3) years. Previous to real estate, I was working as a sales manager for a small manufacturer. In my late twenties, I decided to make a big career change and move back to my hometown of Buffalo, NY which was experiencing significant growth in both population and home sales.
Is it difficult to work full-time while maintaining your investment property? How was it during the renovation?
Luckily, I have an amazing co-host (my cousin, Joe!) who really brings a lot to the table. Together, Joe and I combine our extensive travel experience around the globe and incorporate our favorite elements into our spaces. Both him and I manage guest interaction and property management which helps us both perform effectively. In terms of maintaining my real estate job while renovating the various Airbnb properties… well, let’s just say that involved a LOT of take-out, red wine and late-night design and contract writing! It’s still something I’m working to improve on but I’ve learned that having a balance is key!
What was the one thing that surprised you about being an Airbnb host?
I knew that in hosting guests from all different walks of life, I’d get to meet a lot of new and interesting people… and I have! A very positive and somewhat unexpected benefit is that I’ve made a lot of lasting friendships with my guests, several who have come back to visit multiple times, some who I have traveled out of state to visit, and some who have turned into real estate clients!
Search results in Airbnb can help you stay above the competition. What are the top components that make a gold star Airbnb listing?
Search results are everything! Depending on the region you’re browsing on Airbnb, a host can easily be met with hundreds of competitive listings. Having the Superhost badge (signifying your high level of experience and guest satisfaction) is essential. Other important aspects are clear, high definition photos, a catchy name for your space, and the layout of the photos within the listing (for example, using the best part of the space such as the kitchen or living room as your default listing photo).
How do you handle negative reviews?
Luckily, I don’t have much experience with negative reviews. Of the few more “negative” reviews I’ve received, they are usually based on the fact that a guest had expectations outside of what the Airbnb offered, or there was a communication issue we were unable to solve effectively. I truly believe that it’s critically important to keep everything about your Airbnb (and your expectations) fully transparent on your listing so there aren’t any surprises. Beyond that, communication and hospitality go a very long way.
Did you use professionals to help with the design and remodel of the property?
I am proud to say that my co-host Joe and I designed both Airbnb properties from the ground up. Interior design is a hobby of mine that is very near and dear, so designing an Airbnb provides me with a blank canvas to stretch my design and creativity muscles.
How did you decide on the style direction of your property(s)?
I truly believe that every property has a “vibe”, or sometimes a story to tell. Sometimes it’s about the neighborhood, or the street, or the history of the home. For our latest project entitled “Buffalo Joe’s Urban Haven”, the home was constructed in the 1990’s and is located in a neighborhood where most properties were built 100 years prior. When we took the townhome down to the studs, we wanted to incorporate modern luxuries while giving a nod to the history that the neighborhood has. We incorporated things you’d often find such as oak hardwood floors, trim wood accents and marble floors while incorporating modern amenities such as a subway tiled soaking tub and a large mudroom with laundry services.
What has been most important to the Airbnb guests you have hosted?
It’s a 50/50 split between communication and meeting expectations. When it comes to communication, our guests know what to expect from the minute they visit our page to the moment they check out of the property. We provide our guests with as much information as possible and even try to offer additional insight on things they might not know about such as trendy local establishments and nearby attractions. Additionally, offering a high level of service and meeting guests expectations (especially about things like cleanliness, which is critical) keeps us booked more nights than not.
How important or what changes had to be made to the lighting in the property during reno?
The home was filled with antiquated lighting that didn’t adequately light the space and definitely didn’t complement it. I wanted to provide lighting that allowed for good visibility but also created a warmth that made guests feel like they never wanted to leave.
What do you wish your real estate clients knew about lighting?
I wish that my real estate clients (and fellow realtors) would understand how important it is in creating a “feel” for a space. For example, a chandelier above a dining table that creates a statement and gives off a soft glow for ambiance or a bathroom fixture that allows the space to feel large and well lit for things like showering or make-up applications.
What advice would you give to people considering becoming an Airbnb host?
First off, this is something I get consulted about regularly and I’d like to stress the importance of communication and time management. While it’s very easy for anyone to throw some furniture and a coffee pot in a space, being a high-quality Airbnb host requires one to dedicate time and deal with unexpected changes. I would highly advise anyone who is thinking of becoming a host to stay in several other Airbnbs (if you haven’t already) and get a feel for the things you do/don’t like about the places you book. Then, use that knowledge to create your own welcoming space. Lastly, both in my real estate career and as an Airbnb host; smartphone-taken photos are NOT sufficient. When your space is completed and ready, hire a professional photographer to shoot the space. After all, your guests have to love the appearance of your listing online in order for them to want to book a visit!
What else should we know about Airbnb and/or real estate?
Well, I’m happy to share that Airbnb is consistently growing as a “disrupter” to the hotel industry. All over the world, hosts are creating unique and inviting spaces and it can really be an economical way to stay while traveling with friends, family or colleagues. It’s a very beautiful community of people that I’m proud to be a part of!
I’d like to extend my thanks to the amazing team at Kichler for creating such beautiful lighting that I’ve used extensively at my properties. I can’t begin to explain how many guests compliment us on how attractive the fixtures are and for me it’s become an essential brand in any Airbnb property I create. Of all the Kichler products we use and enjoy, my favorite would have to be the Titus chandelier above our dining table. It’s contemporary, stylish and provides a lovely ambiance hung above our large dining table with seating for six.
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